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Ds doing poorly at independent school - move to state?

(68 Posts)
SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 08:55:50

Please don't flame me for this - I am trying to think through all our options and do the best for ds, but I also need to be a bit pragmatic!

Ds has just left year 8 in an academically-selective independent school. His end of year report is pretty bad. He is in the bottom fifth of the year for 'effort' and has had many detentions this year for not handing in homework, being late to class etc. His end of year exams were also fairly dire - clearly he hadn't done enough revision etc.

However, he enjoys school, has loads of friends and - academic achievement notwithstanding - is by all accounts a very popular and well-liked kid by staff and peers. His reports all say that his poor results are down to lack of application and effort rather than inherent lack of ability iyswim. He's not bothered, basically.

He is there on a bursary which, although pretty generous, still means I have to find several hundred pounds a month which is very difficult. I am a single parent on a very moderate income and ds's dad no longer contributes to school fees (he did when ds started there but not any more, long story, different thread!) I feel awful saying this but I am starting to begrudge paying all that money every month when ds is clearly not bothering atm.

Part of me thinks I should bite the bullet and move him. Another part of me thinks that if he's naturally lazy (like I was at school, to be fair!) then moving away from small class sizes/a more competitive environment etc won't help. I also don't want to send him the wrong message - like he's not 'worth' paying out for if we're not getting a 'return' (although in my darker, private moments I'll admit that's how I'm starting to feel!) And on another hand altogether maybe he's just slower to mature than some of the other boys in his year and it's not quite 'clicked' with him yet?

I love my ds to pieces, he is genuinely a lovely boy with lots of potential (imo!) and just want the best for him. He is like I was at the same age, basically, just can't really be arsed.

I wanted him to have a shot at a great education in a great school, but I wonder whether I've got my priorities wrong? Should I take him out and stop worrying, let him get on with it and at least be able to pay for extra-curricular stuff etc? Or, should I just keep him at the school he clearly loves, carry on encouraging/pushing him to make more effort and hope for the best?

Any advice would be really welcome.

senua Fri 22-Jul-16 09:05:50

Quick pragmatic reply: I assume that you have to give a term's notice. Have you already finished (so too late) or do you need to get your notice in today?

situatedknowledge Fri 22-Jul-16 09:08:36

Another pragmatic question. Would you actually get a place at a state school you'd be happy with?

DelphiniumBlue Fri 22-Jul-16 09:09:49

My first question is does he understand the sacrifices being made to keep him there?
And then does he know you are considering moving him?
I think he's probably old enough to understand a deal- if he wants to stay there, he'll have to put in more work to show that the cost is justified, that he's in receipt of an expensive privilege that currently he seems to be frittering away.
In reality, its a fantastic opportunity and of course you want to maintain it if you can. The advantage of this type of school is being surrounded by lots of other academically able children and you don't know how he might react or fare in larger classes with a bigger range of abilities and behaviors. He might respond well to being near the top of the class, or he might struggle with the anonymity of being middle- ish in a large pool.
What are your local comps like?

CremeBrulee Fri 22-Jul-16 09:11:41

Have a talk with DS. Ask him why isn't he bothering, explain that if he doesn't pull his socks up you are thinking of moving him. Give him a term to put the effort in.

Think carefully - if you move him the bursary is gone, you won't be able to move him back,

redhat Fri 22-Jul-16 09:13:01

I think he's old enough for you to sit down with him and have a serious conversation about him applying himself and the cost of the schooling (which I would stress you are very happy to pay if its making a difference)

I have two DSs in an academically selective independent. They are working at a very high level (Ds1 is doing maths in Year 6 that I didn't do until 2nd Year seniors) but someone has to be at the bottom. I do feel though that for those constantly at the bottom it must be difficult. If in a different school with a more representative mixture of abilities, that same child would probably be near the top of the class. Doing well at school can have an enormous impact on confidence which can actually serve a child far better in life than exam results.

However in your case it does sound like its not a lack of ability but a lack of application. Personally I'd be giving a deadline for some real improvement after which there will be consideration of change in school.

EarthboundMisfit Fri 22-Jul-16 09:14:29

I would talk to him and tell him that he needs to make more of this opportunity or he will need to move.

yomellamoHelly Fri 22-Jul-16 09:14:44

Call your LEA and find out where the spaces are in the state system. Then you can start to make an informed decision. I think I'd be inclined to move, but it is an awkward age I think.

meditrina Fri 22-Jul-16 09:14:53

The bursary may be gone anyhow, as although they're not (usually) dependent on good results, they are normally on good effort and good conduct. So he can't go on like this in his current school.

Have you talked to him about any of this? Because if he is settled and wants to stay, he needs to grasp that he needs to make more of an effort. If he wants to move, then start researching other schools now.

SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 09:15:24

No, am not thinking of handing in notice right now. It's more about weighing up options really and wondering what is best for him.

We are now in catchment for a decent state secondary but it is massively oversubscribed because most of the other state secondaries locally are dire. I mean, genuinely dire, the area is famous for it sad. Or you have to be Catholic.

ohtobeanonymous Fri 22-Jul-16 09:16:50

Is he aware of the financial sacrifices you're making? As a teacher, its not surprising to see KS3 children go through similar lack of application issues, but as a parent I'd be sitting him down to chat about the situation and get him to make the suggestions as to what he feels would be reasonable to convince you that it is worth keeping him at the school! Put it in the context of how proud you are with all the positives smile but there is obviously (reported) room for improvement.

I'm sure he'd appreciate your understanding about how difficult it can be to motivate yourself to study if you're 'naturally' lazy, and perhaps you could come up with some ways you could support him in finding the discipline he needs. He also perhaps is old enough to understand that he owes it to himself (and to you) to make the most of his opportunitites.

Also, remember that in an academicallly selective school, being 'bottom set' is potentially still doing quite well in the scheme of the greater population. But obviously, it is not about comparing yourself to others that matters, but being the best version of yourself that you can be!

Would you feel comfortable in agreeing with him to reassess the situation after looking at what improvements have been made by the end of Year 9?

Any suggestions of support from his HoY?

Good luck - I have a Y7 DD who coasts by on natural sociability and intellect and by no means puts in the effort needed to achieve her best. I feel your pain!

titchy Fri 22-Jul-16 09:17:28

If the only state secondary is genuinely dire then that answers your question surely?

SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 09:19:01

Sorry, X posted!

We have talked a lot about this. He says he understands but it never seems to translate into actual effort. I've told him I'll move him and he says he doesn't want to. I've told him I'm making huge sacrifices to send hi there and it doesn't seem to make any difference. He improves for a week or so and then slips back.

I do worry about the bursary going - although in a way that would solve the conundrum! His conduct is excellent though so I suppose atm he's doing just enough to maintain it.

Seeline Fri 22-Jul-16 09:19:02

What are the school suggesting?
I would be expecting the form tutor and/or head of year to be having serious conversations with your Ds about how to improve next year. If he is having problems with the actual work then individual subject teachers should be involved. If he is having problems with the work methods/how to study, there should be somebody in some sort of learning support role who should be stepping in. This is what you pay for!
I agree that in a selective environment, it is easy for the kids at the bottom to forget how bright they actually are, and it can be very disheartening to be at the bottom all the time. I am constantly reminding mine that they are part of a selected group, and therefore being nearer the bottom isn't necessarily an issue as long as they are doing their best.
I would be reluctant to move at this stage until real discussions have taken place, both with your DS and the school. Is there a realistic state option available?

BikeRunSki Fri 22-Jul-16 09:19:23

If your catchment school is oversubscribed, would you get solace anyway, catchment or not?

Ladymuck Fri 22-Jul-16 09:21:02

OK, so taking a step back, is this purely about value for money, or do you think that a different environment would be better for ds? You haven't mentioned what the alternatives are. A move at year 9 or for the start of year 10 is feasible, but not necessarily easy. Have you spoken to the local state schools to see which, if any, have spaces in the right yeargroup. Some schools are moving to a 3 year KS4, so pupils will have already chosen GCSEs in year 8. I'm also conscious of pupils moving to find that MFL are different.

I don't think that you can make a decision just looking at one school, and your son's failure to thrive academically. You need to look at what the alternative is.

It is also worth going through the fine print of your contract so that you are aware of notice periods, and any conditions which would require the bursary to be repaid.

SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 09:22:41

I went into the school last term after the fifth detention in a row or similar, spoke to form tutor and HOY, who both were quite firm with him that it wasn't good enough and put some monitoring support in place. It worked for a bit, ds was really embarrassed that it had come to that, but then again after a few weeks it all went off the boil again!

I just feel exhausted at the thought of another year of worrying about it. I work fulltime, am on my own, I can't spend every moment over him checking he's done what he needs to do...

LIZS Fri 22-Jul-16 09:24:38

If you are looking for y9 place catchment won't be the deciding factor. Either there is a space or not. If not you may face an appeal which could take months. You'd be expected to pay for autumn term now anyway Is he day or boarding currently? Someone has to be in bottom 20% but you'd at least prefer him to put the effort in. In y9 presumably he'd be narrowing down subjects to those he is more interested in which may help.

Ladymuck Fri 22-Jul-16 09:24:42

X post. If your local options are "dire" then I think you need to see it out in the current school until GCSE. You will then know that you have given him the best opportunity possible. From the end of year 10 you can have a look at all of the local state 6th form possibilities. Many of these will have entrance criteria, and may interview, which may help motivate your ds.

SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 09:26:25

Honestly I don't know Ladymuck. He loves it there, so it's not about the environment I don't think. I'm ashamed to admit that a lot of it is about value for money for me (and for him!) - it's such a taboo but yes of course I want 'results' but I don't expect the school to conjure them out of thin air, I know it's down to ds. And he is just so frustrating! He is bright, certainly, better at the arts subjects than the maths and sciences, but disorganised and does the bare minimum. In my heart I don't think moving him would actually change any of that though.

Good points about the standard he is probably working at anyway...some his maths boggles me!

Mummamayhem Fri 22-Jul-16 09:27:57

Jeez what will that life lesson be? You are not good enough for our grand plans, what a dissapointment. Best punish him by moving him from a school he's happy and settled in. Seriously? How do you think that will encourage him to achieve his potential? You decided to send him to a private school and pay the (unnecessary imo) fees, surely you must have thought about financial implications?

SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 09:28:02

Yes, I think it's unlikely I'll be able to keep him there through 6th form anyway (sadly).

I feel as if I've let him down a bit. Maybe I've put too much pressure on him?

SeptemberFear Fri 22-Jul-16 09:29:54

Yes I'm well aware what that life lesson would be as I said in my OP, but thanks for the snide remarks anyway mumma.

senua Fri 22-Jul-16 09:34:03

OK, now we know that today is not a deadline we can think clearly.
If there are long waiting lists for the good local schools, why not apply anyway. You don't want to jump out of the frying pan into the fire so get a good alternative before you do anything.
What pushes his buttons? Can you get a reward system related to what suits you (effort grades) and what motivates him (pocket money, new telephone).
Year 8 (and Year 9 I'm afraid!) are horrible for a lot of children, he is not unique here.
Speak to the school. I remember one time that DS got an awful letter from school. It really upset me until friends pointed that that it was a standard letter that went out to loads of families, designed to put the willies up them. Is this a standard Year 8 bollocking or do they think there is a real problem. They will have seen this a million times before: is it something he will grow out of or do they have deep concern.

AnneEyhtMeyer Fri 22-Jul-16 09:34:46

You say his conduct is "excellent", so what were the detentions for?

I am very surprised that the school hasn't spoken to you already about the risk to the bursary.

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